20 - 29 April 2019

Vishy scores a second win to join Carlsen in the lead

The special on the menu for the fourth round of the GRENKE Chess Classic was the duel between Magnus Carlsen and his most recent world championship challenger, Fabiano Caruana. Living up to the expectations all comers, the matchup saw the top two players of the world fight fiercely over the board for 71 moves before finally signing peace.

Meanwhile, all of the other games of the round finished decisively: Levon Aronian beat Peter Svidler, Arkadij Naiditsch defeated Vincent Keymer, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got the better of Georg Meier, while Viswanathan Anand hopped into the tournament lead with a win over GM Francisco Vallejo Pons.


Last year, it was in Karlsruhe that Carlsen and Caruana had played their last classical game before their World Championship match. And as fate was to have it, they were seeing each other across the board for the first time after their title clash in the very same place. And a Sveshnikov Sicilian to open the game – one of the hotly debated lines in the previous world championship match – only added to the flavour.


But did it feel any different in comparison to playing at the World Championship? "It felt like less pressure somehow," Caruana said. "We were playing the same line as in the (World Championship) match but the pressure was sort of off."

Carlsen and Caruana played their first game since their world championship match | Photo: Georgios Souleidis 

In the early stages of the game, Caruana seemed to be in the driver’s seat, but as play progressed, Carlsen’s pieces which had been kept at bay earlier, began to assert themselves. As the endgame arose, the world champion’s position looked much superior. Caruana, however, found a crafty line of defence on the 46th move.

Position after 46...Ra4

Here, the Italian American grandmaster gave up his bishop with 46.Bxg6! and forced a drawn rook and knight versus rook endgame after exchanging off the last remaining pawns soon afterwards. Carlsen being Carlsen, he tried to sneak a win out for twenty more moves before finally acquiescing to a draw.


With Carlsen’s game drawn, Vishy Anand managed to catch up in the tournament lead following his win over Francisco Vallejo Pons. As black, Vishy had essayed the Caro-Kann Defence but the game soon began to resemble a Kings Indian Defence with colours reversed.

Viswanathan Anand won his second game of the event and joined Carlsen in the lead | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Vishy said after the game that he wasn’t happy with his position out of the opening as Vallejo’s attack looked dangerous. But the Spaniard didn’t find some crucial niceties and let his attack subside. Meanwhile, Anand’s counter-play on the queenside had grown serious. Desperate to break in, Vallejo gave up a bishop on the kingside. Vishy had it under control though. He gave up his queen for a rook and two minor pieces and found safe shelter for his king. Soon, his material advantage decided the game.


Post game interview with Vishy

Levon Aronian scored his first win of the event against Peter Svidler, who was leading the tournament alongside Magnus Carlsen after the third round. Aronian, who had the white pieces, avoided the turbulent waters of the Marshall Gambit with 8.a4. Svidler tried to clarify the situation on the queenside by temporarily sacrificing his ‘a’ pawn but ended up dropping his e5 pawn soon afterwards. Aronian said after the game that his opponent’s attempt to look for a creative solution led to his downfall.


“I think Peter tried to improve something but got into a passive position and then he blundered a pawn. So, I think it was just a bad day for him,” Aronian said.


Arkadij Naiditsch also scored his first win of the day in round four against the youngest player in the field, IM Vincent Keymer. The 14-year-old from Germany was off to a good start from the black side of a Closed Sicilian. While no exchanges were made well until the middle game, both sides had expanded on opposite wings. Keymer’s 19…g6 looked dangerous given Naiditsch’s advancing kingside pawns. Naiditsch went all in, giving up a full rook to rip open black’s king shelter and delivered the final blow on the 36th turn.

Arkadij Naiditsch annihilated Vincent Keymer's king in a Closed Sicilian | Photo: Georgios Souleidis 

Maxime Vachier Lagrave’s game against Georg Meier was the longest game of the day – you heard it, it wasn’t Carlsen this time. As black, Maxime deployed one of his very favourite opening, the Gruenfeld Defence, against Meier’s 1.d4 and equalized easily out of the opening. However, in doing so, several pieces had been traded and an endgame was reached by the 17th move. But while equilibrium persisted in the position, MVL refused to give up. About 49 moves into the game, he managed to net a pawn while the stone cold computer still adorned its evaluation with zeroes. Regardless, MVL wasn’t budged. He kept pushing and won the game after 96 moves in a study-like manner.

In round 4, it was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (left) who drew water out of stone | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Round 5 will begin on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 15:00 CEST. Pairings for the fifth round can be found below.

Pairings of the 5th round (24.04.2019 / 15:00)











Svidler, Peter



Vallejo Pons, Francisco





Vachier-Lagrave, maxim



Aronian, Levon





Keymer, Vincent



Meier, George





Carlsen, Magnus



Naiditch, Arkady





Anand, Viswanathan



Caruana, Fabiano



Text by Aditya Pai